Wonderful Wolverhampton

Darlington St Methodist Church

Stunning!

Darlington St Methodist Church

24 School St,
Wolverhampton,
WV1 4LF

01902 422100

Listing:  Grade II*.  1900-1901 with late 19th century tower to rear. By Arthur Marshall. Baroque Style.

Literature:

Pevsner: A free English Early Georgian but with a hemispherical copper dome and two facade turrets. A very uncommon design for the purpose.

Darlington Street Methodist Church: Seventy Five Years, 1901 - 1976.   Published by the church, 1976. (The black and white photos on this page are taken from this booklet by kind permission).  

Comment: a very large church with an extensive range of rooms behind it. It reflects the importance of Methodism in the town. The green dome is a very well known landmark and is visible from many parts. Where the listing says "Baroque Style", Pevsner says "free English Early Georgian".  Dr. John Thomas suggest "Edwardian Baroque", surely a better classification.  The use of brick and masonry for that style might be unusual but Dr. Thomas points to such features as the channelled masonry, the drum and block columns, the over-emphatic keystones and other features.

The area to the south used to contain shops, offices and small factories and, before that, the School of Art; the south facade was never really meant to be seen but it stands up to this unintended exposure pretty well. The area to the south is currently used as a car park (neatly enough done, with decent railings) but is supposed to be developed as new court houses under a PFI contract  - a cause for concern.


The old chapel, which occupied this site

from 1825 to 1899.  

Early Methodist meetings in Wolverhampton were held in a room behind the Noah's Ark Inn.  In 1787 a new chapel was built in Wheeler's Fold and was opened by John Wesley.  In 1824 the foundation stone of a new and bigger chapel was laid on this site in the then newly created Darlington Street.  It was opened on the 26th and 28th August 1825.  It held up to 1,500 people and included a Sabbath School in the basement.  It was lit by gas, with three feet high gas standards at the end of each pew.  
In 1857 the then Mayor, John Hartley, gave an adjoining site in School Street, on which were built a Sunday School and a Day School. 
At the end of the century it was decided to replace the pews but it was then found that the whole building needed so much renovation that it was better to demolish and start again. 

 The old chapel was closed on 28th August 1899 and the congregation met in the Agricultural Hall.


The interior of the old chapel in 1899, immediately before demolition.


The dome under construction.

The new church was opened by Miss Jenks on 29th October 1901.  It was a large and imposing structure, reflecting the general trend in nonconformist churches to upgrade from small chapels to buildings which could, at the least, challenge the Church of England churches.  

The organ from the old chapel was rebuilt by Nicholson & Co. of Worcester and  incorporated in the new building. 

View down Darlington Street, probably taken about 1901 when the church was opened.  The Wolverhampton Gas Company's premises are on the opposite corner on the right and the spire of St. Mark's, Chapel Ash, can be seen in the distance.  

An early view from School Street, showing the 1857 buildings to the rear of the church.
The church was extensively refurbished in 1953 and the work included creating cloakrooms and a crush hall inside the main entrance.  

In 1975 further extensive refurbishment work was carried out.

For many years, from the mid 1960s, the basement of the church was used as a centre for young people, known as The Crypt.  It was popular and successful, doing much good work for the community.  

It proved impossible to continue this good work and the basement is now used as a meeting place by many community groups.


The interior in 1976.

The church is still in very active use and is also made available for inspection by visitors on open days, including, usually, Heritage Open Days.